You will hear a lot of talk about the heat this week at Southern Hills, and yes, the temperatures will reach 100 degrees. But the heat won’t affect the players all that much. Golfers, like other athletes, know how to handle the heat, and the vast majority of these guys are in great shape.
That said, the heat will have an impact on course conditions. The PGA of America — the organization that oversees the course setup — will have to syringe the greens to keep the grass cool and healthy. The greens may get spiky by Sunday, but that’s what happens when the heat index reaches 110. Look for the fairways to run fast, but scoring may be lower than expected.
Hats off to the PGA
I noticed some adjustments to the 7th green, and the 8th and the 9th greens appear to have been re-contoured so the back areas are elevated and the fronts are lower. But the 18th will still be the hardest hole at Southern Hills.
The PGA of America gets it when it comes to setting up courses for major events. On 18, the landing area on the right side of the fairway has been widened to allow players to slice their tee shots around the corner. But, it’s still a tough, uphill second shot to the green on this 465-yarder. When the USGA set up the course for the 2001 U.S. Open, players had to hack out of the rough in that area, short of the water and sand, and then try to get up and down from almost 200 yards out.
Of the three majors that rotate courses — the PGA Championship, the U.S. Open and the British Open — the PGA has done the best job of setting up the courses over the past five years.
It’s Tiger’s world
Tiger Woods’s performance at Firestone last week was brilliant, and a lot of people have pegged him as the favorite here in Tulsa. Here’s the deal: when Tiger Woods plays to his full capabilities, he wins. If every player in the field plays his best, and Tiger does too, Tiger still wins.
I saw some things last week at Firestone that made me think Tiger will hit the ball better here than he did at Carnoustie. He’s moved closer to the ball at address, he’s not hanging back on his left side on the backswing, and his arms are much softer through the hitting area. His swing was a little more vertical, and that should lead to better distance control, better trajectory control and the elimination of the flip at the bottom of his swing.
So if these adjustments are in play this week, I think he’s unbeatable.
The last time we had four first-time major winners was 2003. We’re three-quarters of the way to seeing it happen again.
Of the players who have never won a major, I think Hunter Mahan, who played at nearby Oklahoma State, may be the most ready to break through. Mahan won earlier this season in Hartford and had three top 10s in his next three starts. He’s currently 13th on the PGA Tour Money list and 14th in the standings to qualify for the U.S. Presidents Cup team. He’s one of the hottest players on Tour, and if he plays well this week he could be on Jack Nicklaus’ squad.
And while I hate to use the word “revenge,” I look for Stewart Cink and Sergio Garcia to have strong showings too, even though Garcia is showing some signs of the flu.
Phil should rest
Phil Mickelson should not play, period, if he is really injured. In my experience, nothing good comes of it. Bad swing habits creep in and practice habits change. He shouldn’t play anywhere, including the FedEx Cup playoffs, if it means risking further injury and damaging his technique.
“Last week was the first week that I didn’t have to numb up the back of my hand to be able to hit balls,” Mickelson said Tuesday, adding that he was able to practice a few hours a day.
He continued: “(The doctors) think in another two weeks, I should be 100%. I’m pretty excited about that.”